Finding energy in waste

As the number of people on the planet fast increases, few topics are as important as eliminating and diverting waste. Waste elimination deals with designing products and packaging that literally "eliminate" waste, e.g., packaging that actually disappears---like soap packaging that dissolves in water and crust-less bread---for people who do not consume bread crusts. Waste Diversion, on the other hand, takes waste and reprocesses it into usable energy.

Enter Environmental Research & Education Foundation ( whose mission is "to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve".

EREF's Waste Diversion courses include many highly technical topics to help organizations to transform waste into energy. They even offer online courses of this content.

EREF's two-part introductory course covers the fundamentals of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) processes for Municipal Solid Waste, including the technologies used, design elements, applications, and sustainability. Using bacteria that do not require oxygen, AD reprocesses the waste into marketable soil additives. AD represents the most environmentally sustainable waste management technology for food waste that exists today.

A second course offered by EREF is Thermal Conversion (TC) 101. This course provides "a brief overview of city solid waste thermal conversion technologies". What that means is that using TC, cities may transform solid waste into usable energy. Key elements of this course incorporate review of the important terminology and introductions the various processes that use heat (with and without oxygen) and water to transform organic waste into usable biomass. You may remember that biomass is one of the new, green energy sources.

As cities concentrate growing populations into urban areas, there will be an increasing emphasis on waste elimination as well as waste diversion, turning waste into usable energy. The demand for harnessing the energy from waste will increase, as human beings look for ways to reuse or recycle everything to reduce or abolish the need to set aside large areas for unproductive landfills.